In 1990, Missouri deployed as part of Operation Desert Shield, and in January it contributed to the air offensive against Iraq with several salvos of Tomahawk missiles.
With the Cold War over, Missouri decommissioned in March 1992. The cost of maintaining the battleships in service, which required large crews and specialized training, was simply too much for the Navy to bear. It was struck from the Navy List in 1995 in anticipation for conversion into a museum ship. Its sisters Wisconsin and Iowa remained on the Navy List until early 2006. The viability of returning the ships to service was debated for much of the 1990s and early 2000s. The Marine Corps argued that the battleships were necessary for the provision of amphibious gunfire support, a concern that the promise of the Zumwalt-class destroyers would only partially allay.
The North Carolina– and South Dakota–class battleships were designed with the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty in mind. Although much more could be accomplished in 1938 with thirty-five thousand tons than in 1921, sacrifices still had to be made. As had been practice in the first round of battleship construction, U.S. Navy architects accepted a low speed in return for heavy armor and armament. Consequently, both the South Dakotas and the North Carolinas had speeds a knot or two slower than most foreign contemporaries. The Montanas, the final battleship design authorized by the Navy, would also have had a twenty-eight-knot maximum speed. In any case, Japan’s failure to ratify the 1936 London Naval Treaty bumped the maximum standard tonnage from thirty-five to forty-five thousand, giving the designers some extra space to work with. The result was the Iowa class, the most powerful and best-designed battleships ever built.
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